The Gardener

She was unaware the lens that filled with flowers now focused on her. 

My brother captured the fleeting moment so perfectly, a pink swath of morning light illuminating her, head bent surveying new buds saturated in colour. Her clothes blended her with sky and earth, holding her anchored and free.

I love to think of her this way, in her masterpiece, surrounded by wildflowers, immersed in the garden of her creation. Her feet firmly planted in the earth, strong hands capable of building rock walls and mending hurts. 

The builder, who had constructed their home on the hill above the lake, (a design by her brother & she) suggested an added garage may not be possible. She confidently disagreed, ‘oh it can be done.” Gathering a clean paper napkin at the restaurant table, she spontaneously drew & designed it to size. He joked later it was perhaps the first garage he built from a concept on a napkin. 

The self sustaining xeriscaping garden design and rock tiers were all in her head too. Each of us helped gather & place rocks with her instruction when we visited home. There was no lawn. ( Lawns are one the largest waste of our water on earth, she said.)

It was the best project she & Dad achieved together, she claimed with a grin “ I know I am supposed to say you two are, but it’s the garden. ”I couldn’t argue, it’s magnificent, and , after all, they had won Community in Bloom awards.

Joining her to help build the final wall was a gift. The two of us worked side by side in the quiet late afternoon light. By then unable to stand, she worked on her hands a knees, building the last third of the garden this way.  I can still see her rolling rocks along as she crawled in the dirt. Witnessing completion of a masterpiece that lives on. She knew it would. 

Over the years she trusted me to prune and help decide & replace plantings. “Come sit for an iced tea with me!” she would call from the deck above. We would sip our tea, barefeet stretched out in the warm in the summer sun. Hummingbirds visited the feeder close by while dragonflies hovered, often landing on us, and we’d laugh in delight. 

Perhaps she knew, one day, it would be me, alone in the garden, planting, rebuilding rock walls, pruning, finding treasures, while dragonflies fly near by.

Every once in awhile, I’ll pause to breathe and feel the swath of colourful skies above and bright palettes rising from the earth below.


Miss you so much Momma. Thank you for your inspiration, humour and friendship. You showed us the true meaning of courage, strength and kindness.

Thank you for the colours.

~ To all the Mom’s, Happy Mother’s Day.


The Gardener 18×24 oil on canvas- email to inquire

Wildflower series of 4 ,  each 5×7 oil on canvas ~ SOLD ( Commission)

Solar Dragonfly & friend 8×8 oil on canvas $450.oo

Tiny Dragons 5×7 oil on canvas $350.oo

Carnations6×8 oil on board $400.oo

Daily Work

“Wake up as an artist; be an artist each day. Do what is before you to do. Be still, open, and willing.” Aliye Cullu. 

I feel the strength of my Norwegian roots more apparently when hanging out with my Dad.

Along with ancestry and eye colour, I also inherited his love of routine.

Not to burst the fancy free artist image… in truth, I relish comfort of familiarity in daily regimes, a fondness for surprise only at the easel.

My Daily work habits are on many of your minds. 

  • 1. “Do you work only when you feel like it, you have to be inspired to work, right?”
  • 2.“Do you paint all the time, every day?” “ It’s your job to just paint, right?”
  • 3.“If you have a dog, may I rent it? your dog would be a happy dog. Very zen.”


1. When in the business of inspiration, it’s best to find inspiration in everything. 

Therefore, its easy to get to work.

2. Painting all day, every day, wouldn’t allow room for the business portion of my career, which would bring creating to a screeching halt. 

Ideally, a handful of ethical established dealers nationally & internationally promoting/selling the work would unburden me of some tasks. Until then its a daily balancing act between creating and business.

Conscious how much paint I am exposed to on a regular basis,  I also make an effort for activity balance for health & wellness, creation endurance and my longevity.

Art is my livelihood, as a business owner, daily structure depends on variety of work commitments. 

Every evening, I make a daily list of duties/ activities for the following day, maintaining separate lists for ongoing or future projects. Some projects are years in the making.

My work responsibilities include: 

  • Art creator
  • Art growth evolvement/ originality
  • Skill development
  • Subject research
  • Client communication/ correspondence 
  • Retail studio management
  • Proposal submissions/ applications ( Ie: Artist in Residences/ Art Installations, etc)
  • Presentations/ speaking engagements
  • International & national market research
  • Dealer/Collector research 
  • Commercial/ Clinic/ Corporate & Residential construction research
  • Entertainment studio prop contractor connections
  • Public relations
  • Dealer/ gallery negotiations 
  • Exhibit coordinator
  • Packaging & shipping/ logistics
  • Inventory manager
  • Supply runner
  • Tech department :website update: social media update
  • Blog writing & posting, advertising, billing, taxes, etc. 
  • Researching architects, designers, corporations that I want to work with, where my work would be a good fit. Establishing these relationships & sending proposals for future projects. 

  ~ When I am painting, other than ‘creator’ all of the above tasks need to disappear from my mind.~ 

That can be challenging when many things are pressing, my day almost always includes some of above duties. 

This is where routine and mindfulness come in handy. 

3. No dog, thou I grew up with one and loved her so. She was pretty zen. 

~“Get on a daily routine… Working is a process not a product. Success comes from the word, succeed: Latin: ‘to under go.’ You must keep moving.” Nicoletta Baumeister 

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” Shunryu Suzuki 

What’s one activity I do every day, no matter circumstance or location? Meditate.~ Dawn

NEW Work!

“Island Lake” 12×24 oil on canvas $1,030.oo

“Mountain Winter Sunrise” 14×24 oil on canvas $1,210.oo

Other Photos above: Studio/ Dad, Grampa’s flag & lefse/ my brother, Dad & I with our little dog, Tuff.

Free Solo

“I didn’t want to be a lucky climber, I wanted to be a great climber.” Alex Honnold.

The 2018 academy award winning documentary film Free Solo directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin features rock climber Alex Honnold in his quest to climb of El Capitan, Yosemite, ‘free solo’. ( alone, without aid of ropes or equipment.) 

The documentary also offers a rare glimpse & perspective of the film crew. All athletes & climbers themselves face physical, creative and morale challenges in the midst of their creative efforts to capture Alex’s climb.

One might assume those attempting death defying acts like Alex are without natural fear, perhaps driven by some inexplainable force.

Yet, Alex is not without fear. 

He thought about the climb for 8 years, saying it was ‘just too scary’.

Within intense training, he would choreograph each move up the 3,200 foot granite face. Every… single… body… movement.

Alex would train for 2 years, climb El Capitan 50 times with ropes, using what looked to be a large toothbrush to find indentations in the rock face.

His handwritten journals overflowed defining every single move, where each thumb would be placed,… thru the entire climb. 

He rappelled down the face days before climbing after a rain, making certain there were not wet spots where he might slip and making certain his chalk marks were still present.

The extra challenging route portions were climbed over and over again. Falling with the ropes, he would immediately review on site what went wrong, change a movement, practice practice practice. 

Preparations to this degree aren’t accomplished by someone with a death wish. 

This is mastery. 

Honnold free soloed Yosemite’s Half Dome in September 2008 with nothing like the preparations he made for El Capitan. “I didn’t really know how to prepare for a potential free solo, so I decided to skip the preparations and just go up there and have an adventure. I figured I would rise to the occasion, which, unsurprisingly, was not the best strategy.” Honnold said in an April 2018 Ted Talk. 

On a giant, slightly – less- than- vertical slab near the summit, he came close to falling. Although he completed the climb, it was not the experience he wanted. “ I was disappointed in my performance because I had gotten away with something,” he said. “ I didn’t want to be a lucky climber. I wanted to great climber.”

The climb of El Capitan took him 3 hours and 56 min.


While researching this post, I discovered European American artist Hermann Ottomar Herzog  traveled to & painted El Captian in 1873. His beautiful golden renditions of the area are still in circulation today, found on pillows, wall art, prints, beachtowels & free wallpaper.

It’s the first time I have tackled my own rendition of a Master’s work. 

To make certain it wasn’t about ‘copying’, I didn’t allow myself to wear glasses, his image a  fuzzy mass of shapes on my laptop. My own canvas became a blurry application of colour & texture. Out of my comfort zone, it was equal parts scary & freeing.

I chose a horizontal closer cropped composition, using large brushes and mostly guess work with colour. ( no glasses restricts me from seeing colour detail) Working quickly I gave myself a time limit, so the work would have a plein air feel. I didn’t look at the final piece until I returned with my camera. 

Thanks for the inspiration Hermann, indirectly encouraging me to try something new, solo and free.

~ NEW Work~

“Sunday Sunset” ( Sunset Drive) 14×18 oil $910.oo

“Hermann’s El Capitan Sentinel” 24×36 oil ~ email me for availability.

Sacred Places

I felt it standing in the shadow of Ayers Rock and underneath star filled skies in Australia’s outback. It echoed near a legendary stone circle surrounded by green meadow in Scotland.

Unexplainable and indefinable. 

I was mindful of it’s ethereal quality on Vancouver Island’s East Sooke Trail among old growth cedar overlooking the Pacific. It infused me on Kenosee’s forested shores and the Yukon’s crimson arctic tundra corralled by stoic granite mountains.

 It’s essence filled in silence by snow-covered pine overlooking Skagway Alaska, and waterways in Ontario’s northern boreal forest.

Yet, there is a creekside forest trail leading to wild grass hilltop overlooking a salt water lake I most feel its strength of power.

Wind currents swirl and dip in the valley below with an energy that is difficult to ignore. Being immersed in the vista never fails to fill me with awe, in every season, any time of day. Locals and tourists alike attest they feel something magical, ‘something sacred’ a visitor said. 

Certain animals have superior hearing, intuition, sight capabilities and energy sensitivity than humans. What do you think lies beyond what our senses tell us, to what we may intuitively feel?

Your paintings bring ‘immortality to the landscape’, a client said, ‘you are a conservationist’ of land and human engagement.

An artist seeks what may be swirling in morning mist and vibrant skies overhead. Ancient recognition in the quiet spaces of the day and places held dear. Your refuge, wilderness sanctuary to reflect, restore and find renewal.  It’s  having awareness in the earth beneath your feet, air that surrounds & fills, basking in shadows and shafts of light.

Art communicates by emotionally reaching beyond blurred edges and human eye. Motion and energy, abundant life in full colour. 

A photo can capture existence of a place, a painter captures the experience. Not only to what is, but what could be, what may be. Art poses possibilities of the indefinable.~

NEW work

Cloudy Sky 18×24 oil on canvas  $1,210.oo

Wild Grass at Sunset 20×24 oil on canvas $1,400.oo

Sunrise Above the Valley 18×24 oil on canvas $1,210.oo

All photos above Manitou, Sask. To see a movie of the location check out my instagram @dawnartworks – December video, link here

Sparking Joy

Cherish the things you love, and you cherish yourself” Marie Kondo

Everything he owned had to fit in his 1982 honda civic hatchback. A self imposed rule.

My brother has been a minimalist before it was trendy. 

Maintaining the lifestyle thru his career, he pared down possessions even more before working overseas for 3 years, choosing to store a handful of precious items like special papers, photos, musical instruments at our parents home.

Returning from China 6 years ago, Mom called shortly after he had arrived. “Of all the things he had stored, which do you think he missed the most? what do think he first opened?” I suggested music, photos, books?

She replied. “The first thing he had to see was your art from his collection. He unwrapped them with such joy, oh, Dawn, the gentle care he took with your paintings.”

With encouragement last December, Mr. Shurniak shared the story of collecting his amazing body of art for decades.  He stored much of his collection while working overseas, purchasing art where he traveled. Eventually returning to the province of his birth, he built a gallery to house his collection. 

My cousin Susan wisely commented, “It must have felt quite emotional, to unwrap them and have them together, all here.” He responded with tears in his eyes, “It was like finally bringing all of my family home.”

Art collections do more than decorate our space, they become intertwined with our lives. Beacons of familiarity. While life can be transient and fluid, art remains a constant for generations.

Lately, several clients are on the move. Relocating for work, retiring, off to new homes and adventures. It’s such a privilege to hear how your art travels with you, the comfort it brings. A part of your home & family wherever you go.

Some are enthusiastically in the throes of paring down, embracing Marie Kondo lessons. Each one of you have mentioned the thrill of purging and embracing a similar lifestyle, yet, not only keeping your art collections intact, but adding to them, infusing your lives with colour and light. 

Conscious consumerism, mindfully collecting that which you love is a reflection of self care. Surrounding yourself with healthy inspiring environments not only improves energy, quality of life and engagement, it reflects on your work, relationships and those you invite to your spaces.

Purging what no longer serves you can be empowering and cleansing, whether it be clothing, toxic relationships, occupations or guilt. Renewal comes with organized spaces, clutter free minds, positive perspective and open hearts. 

I haven’t read Marie’s book, or seen her popular videos, but I do agree with her philosophy, keeping close that which sparks JOY.

When joyful, we create a ripple effect, spreading happiness to the world.

~“People cannot change their habits without first changing their thinking.” Marie Kondo

New Work!  “Red Canoe Awaits” 18×36 oil on canvas $2000.oo ( two photos)

Sundance  “5ft x 3.3” ft oil on canvas  $5,940.oo ( shown with Marc Banning handcrafted chair).

First & Second photos- my brother with my gift painting of his birthplace. Mr.Shurniak & I Dec. 2018.

Arctic Char

“Turn every challenge into a jigsaw. Before you know it, all these small pieces add up to something pretty amazing.” Peter Bray

Some believe creating is mindless, when in fact, it is the opposite. It’s extremely mindful, solving problems, decision making and very hard work. It’s understanding you will never know it all, but dive in anyhow.

When he first emailed the Arctic Char photo, I could have declined the work, but I was intrigued by such amazing colour. In fact, my use of colour is the reason the client chose me. 

Revisiting the photo nearly daily for 6 months, I have been pondering how to execute it. Ideas have been simmering for a long while.

With most commissions I require several high res photos. In this case I had one lower res photo reference, purposely not requesting a higher resolution, to not be tempted to paint realism. Thou not my typical genre, it needed to still look like my work. 

It was a challenging composition to capture with the focal point directly in the middle of the photo. The Char, while colourful, lay on mostly blue grey rock. Compose it as such, the fish would look cartoonish, not a part of the rock bed, or even a part of the picture. It would feel fake. 

I needed to change the composition, placing the fish higher in the canvas, and make the tail fin flow off the canvas to invoke movement. I enhanced light & shadow on & under the fish making it feel less direct middle ground point of interest. Creating rock colour to give the painting balance, feel real, without being fussy with detail was important. That’s so tough, because one itches to paint every scale, be fussy with fins and rock contours. 

It’s one of the hardest aspects of impressionism, to not overwork. What information to leave in, what to omit.

In landscape, one can soften the scape without challenging the viewer. It’s a whole other story with a fish someone needs to recognize, needing to ‘pop’ with colour, look somewhat real, and a part of its background.

I also needed to create a whole new series of colours for the fish. 

A mixture of 4 blues, ochre, umber, green, magenta, two cad reds, alizarin crimson, two cad orange, 2 cad yellow, 2 whites to create the fish alone. 

The idea for purple was a motivating factor and my starting point, if the purple rocks would feel right as the bed for this lovely fish, it could work. The painting evolved and 1/2 way in I  knew I had it.

Interestingly, it may be the first painting I have created in complete silence without music in the studio. 

“Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless. Susan Cain “Quiet”.

The work, thou challenging, was incredibly energizing and joyful.

He is thrilled with the result as am I!

~The simplicity of form, the drama of rich, intense colour, the joy of challenge, and the challenge of endurance… The piece, when it is over, is not what is made, but how it is made. Andrew Kuntz

Art Business Foundation

Researching training plans for my first Ironman (a 3.86k swim, 180.25k bike and 42.2 run endurance event) I dove into books by famous pro’s. Start at the top was my motto, and they had it down to a science. The problem with this approach was I didn’t have time to accommodate their rigorous training plans while working a full time desk job with an art career on the side.

 I  knew something about endurance sport participating in marathons, but Ironman was a whole other ballgame. 

I changed my tactic, approaching people who had finished the event unscathed. Regular folk like me, who had full time jobs and life commitments without the genetics of a born athlete. I carried a notebook penciling in their best advice. 

I needed to engage with participants at the race and hear their experience first hand. An ideal role allowing individual athlete time was volunteering at the finish line massage tent. Lacking massage expertise wasn’t a deterrent, I took a two day shiatsu course and approached the volunteer committee with my certificate. Agreeing to a training workshop with their RMT’s secured my spot. 

My four hour shift turned into 8 when my replacement never arrived, making it one of the most enlightening, if not exhausting moves I made to gather training intel.  Witnessing how athletes were feeling physically and emotionally immediately crossing the finish line was invaluable. 

I approach my art career in similar fashion. While its wise not to be blind to masters methods, I am curious about those who didn’t have an easy path in their field, in art or otherwise. I scrutinize every job and activity for life gems, gaining art business education from some unorthodox places.

I learned effective communication as a travel agent and customer service waiting tables. I discovered how not to package shipping items working in a warehouse. Time management attributes matured employed as a maid for resort hotel.Being non presumptuous enabled me, to have great working relationships with bushmen in arctic exploration. I developed a thick skin, listening skills and intuitiveness working in advertising. While employed by a national business magazine, one client dubbed me ‘ the chihuahua’ explaining, while working in a male dominated field I was ‘ tiny, unafraid to play with the big dogs, and the persistence of a dog with a bone.”

I am not a naturally gifted artist, yet I have managed to carve out a career in a field many do not consider qualifies as a ‘real’ career. My strengths lie in chihuahua persistence, curiosity, open mindedness, street smarts, vision and a deep desire to make a difference. 


Northern Sunlit Shore 30×40 oil $2,970.oo

Blue Skies & Fireweed 24×30 oil $1,980.oo (shown in studio & natural light).

~ thanks for your inquiries asking about art business skills. Conducting research is valuable, and life experience can be transferable to your future goals. Sending good thoughts your way.

~ Dawn photo- Ironman Canada 2006.

Making of an Artist & the Creative Act

It’s understanding the subtle lift of your child’s brow. Recognizing a parent’s gait and unspoken emotion in a siblings tone. It’s knowing every curve of your lover’s face.

Beyond detached scientific study, painting needs emotional connection. Familiarity with the muse is built on observation one possess’s of a loved one.  Creating art is an intimate act. 

Exploration of subject requires eye, hand, & heart. To gain understanding, observation comes from a place of non -judgement forming an artist/ muse bond. 

My artistic journey was not born of ambition or love of drawing, but a love of horses.  I found them fascinating, the way many little girls do.

Horses lived in my beloved storybooks like ‘Black Beauty’ and on my cousins’ farms. Witnessing loving bonds between these magnificent creatures and people, I wanted a  part of that experience. Drawing was a way to do that.

Perhaps loneliness played a part in my creative beginning. 

Missing my older brother when he started school, I spent my days wandering the park woods where we lived. Naturally shy, drawn to quiet activities, visual stories came to life on paper with a child’s vibrant imagination.

A combination of personality, environment, comfortable being alone, work ethic, timing, and events spark creativity for many artists, as it did for me. 

The elements of an artistic life were in place by the time my artist babysitter came along. 

Thou drawing never came naturally to me, an ability to focus and relentlessness helped.

As my drawing confidence grew over the years, so did my subjects, expanding from animals, people, and nature. 

Growing up in wilderness, my connection to it is a loving familial bond formed in childhood.

Landscape art became my prime focus later in life when I discovered people of any age, culture, language, religion, or country find solace & connection to nature. Nature is a universal language. 

It’s said an artist’s spirit is imprinted within their work.  I believe there is an exchange, the muse spirit is imprinted within artist. ~’

Note: The best way to draw anything is eliminate mental identity labels of the subject. It takes practice to move past preconceived impressions and find the subject’s ‘essence’. Observe with eyes anew, curiosity and wonder. 

I believe it’s wonderful life approach, not just in art. 

~ “ I have worked with horses my whole life, and you know horses.” client at the Shurniak gallery, admiring ‘Bronco’.

New Work available:

“SKY over Lake” 3ft x `4ft oil ( two photos shown, in progress) $4,345.oo

“SKY” 4ft x 3ft oil $4,345.oo

~early drawings shown in three photos.~

“Kenosee”14×18 oil $910.oo

“Forest Nook” 14×18 oil $910.oo

“Bronco” charcoal & acrylic. SOLD

Learning Process

It’s too bad, really…”I think I am beginning to learn something about it. ” Renoir’s last words at 78.

‘Just starting to get the hang of it’ after a lifetime of artistic achievement, Renoir brilliantly captures the concept of artist process.

Achieving success with mature style and building a following is just beginning. Creating art is a constant evolution of learning.

Process needs to be fluid for growth.

“That I will never know it all is a part of the appeal. I am forever a student….. Thank God.” A popular watercolorist declared with a sigh. Decades of success to his credit, he hosts workshops around the world.

During an interview with Robert Bateman, the radio host declared his work is of an accomplished master. Bateman disagreed. “I have yet to create a true masterpiece.” He spoke of continuing to learn, challenge himself and evolve his work. “I hope I never feel I have ‘learned it all’. One can become stagnant. If that happens I might as well be dead.” 

His last sentence struck me powerfully. It’s the dread of many artists, growing stagnant, no longer engaged by the work to improve, to master.

Another iconic painter confessed privately, ” the blank canvas scares me. Beginning, FACING it, that’s so fearful.” He shared this after selling $50K of paintings in the first ten minutes of his solo show 15 years ago. Patrons had lined the sidewalk waiting for the show to open. 

It’s a myth that an ’accomplished’ artist has absolution in process. That it’s effortlessly routine.

Process is just pigment, medium, tools and linen. Methods evolve.

Creating is complex, it’s doing a brand new puzzle in your mind each time, then figuring out a way to execute it. That means process changes, influenced by ‘the idea.’

We are beginners, every single day. To proceed knowingly inept to a degree, takes courage. It’s about embracing vulnerability, or at least accepting it.

Stepping to the easel with the uneasiness of a student is wonderfully humbling. Process follows when you uncover your spark. Stoke inspiration’s flame. Focus on the flare, less on process. The rest is just tools. 


New Work!!

“Tundra Sanctuary” 24×30 oil on canvas ( shown in both natural and studio light) $1,980.oo

River of Light” 11×14 oil on canvas $660.oo


The first person to call me prolific is a brilliant impressionist. My friend Patrick.

I had to look it up.


/prəˈlifik/ dictionary 


adjective: prolific

1. ( of plant, animal or person) producing much fruit or foliage or many offspring. 

2. present in large numbers or quantities. Plentiful. Abundant.  Productive, creative, inventive, fertile.

What’s interesting about this definition, not once does it say “easily”.  
Yet, it’s a common misunderstanding it must be for creatives who are prolific.
Those two words in conjunction with another fly around me fairly often. “Prolific, easy, natural”.
Only one is true. I am prolific.
I produce a mountain of work, not because its easy or natural. Not one little iota. 

Iota – [ahy-oh-tuh]“something very small, iota is the smallest letter in the Greek Alphabet”.

There are very few natural genius’s. I have met many artists, musicians, writers who agree. In fact, I have yet to meet one who said the work came easily.

There’s danger in assuming every artist is a natural easy talent. 
First: it devalues their work effort, education, evolved skill. 
Second: it becomes a cop out for those who want to attempt creative practice. I hear this all the time. “Oh I wasn’t born with it like you were, so why bother.”

Friends, I wasn’t born with it either. 
Dad describes it best, sharing his perspective with Mr. Shurniak recently, “For years she drew and drew and drew, and it never looked like anything. Then one day it did.” I love that he continues to share this story, because it’s honest. 

Last week a friend asked what the hardest part of my job is.

It’s creating the work. Because without quality work, without feeling good about what I release, the rest  of it, selling, promoting, etc, is not just challenging, it’s impossible.

I still produce duds. It comes with the territory. Perhaps where I excel is being able to overcome the frustration.To not be bogged down, or hampered by it. Or, like some, insulted by it. 

Privileged to do what I love, not knowing how long I will be able to do it, I am driven by a sense of urgency. With an unquenchable thirst to improve, to delight and engage you, I just get back to work.

 “Keep busy while you are waiting for something to happen.” Robert Genn. 



“Beach” 11×14 oil on canvas $660.oo

“Carnation” oil on board sketch

“Sky over Field” 8×10 oil on canvas $500.oo

“Out of the Ashes, Into the Clouds” 24×30 work in progress oil $1,980.oo